So here I am: At a McDonald’s outside of Gare d’Est in Paris because I have nowhere else to go, listening to a terrible rap song played on repeat over the speakers. Seriously, I think I have the lyrics memorized already: “…I see them coming from afar… they know who we are: from Kingston we come through, Kingston we come through…”
For those of you who know me, I think its important to mention that at this point in the trip, I have slept only 3 hours, checked out of my place in Paris, only to arrive at the train station to be told that no, I could not go on any of the trains I wanted to, and that if I wanted to get to Switzerland that day, I would have to wait 6 more hours and then take a 8 hour train excursion… but I was pretty calm. It was remarkable, even to me. I have had more than my fair share of travel issues in the past, including living near Dulles Airport for 4 days and being forced to sleep on the floor of Charles De Gaulle beside… well, let’s just say “not the most upstanding citizens”. I handled all of these situations poorly, but now I realize how much these mishaps have taught me about myself and how to be a better traveler.
I think the first thing any stressed traveler should do is evaluate their vital signs. Have you eaten today? Did you get a decent nights sleep in the last few nights? There is nothing like traveling to remind me that I am no further evolved than I was at 2 years old. The fact is, I need food and sleep or I get cranky and may throw a tantrum–who knew?
Unfortunately, nothing brings people together like commiseration. I have made more friends through travel issues than I can count. When things are going smoothly, many people like to keep to themselves or do their own thing. But all bets are off in frustrating situations. It’s odd (and perhaps sad) that humans bond over complaints, but I think it’s best to just accept that and make the most of it.
A common, monumental error that inconvenienced travelers make is that they worry about how their questions and actions might inconvenience airline, train, or hotel employees. In the past, I have tried to act polite and efficient with authority figures, but no longer! When I finally get a hold of someone helpful, I do NOT let them go anywhere! I ask all the stupid questions I can think of, and save myself a lot of legwork in the end.
And as stupid as it sounds, I am having a very nice moment here, with my tea and internet. A tip: most countries don’t have cozy cafes with free WiFi like we do in America, but they all have McDonald’s! So as much as I hate to admit it, its okay to swallow your pride and take refuge under the golden arches, even in Paris.
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